News Roundup

Top Stories: Supervised Consumption Sites, a Proposed Head Tax, and Ferguson's Newest Lawsuits

Your weekly dose of top political stories.

By Araz Hachadourian October 13, 2017

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Photo by Gage Skidmore / Flickr

1. The King County Superior Court on Friday held a hearing on a lawsuit that would block Initiative 27 from appearing on the February ballot. I-27 would give voters the option of banning supervised consumption sites, and advocates argue that public health policy cannot be subject to voter approval. Superior Court Judge Alicea-Galvan is expected to rule on whether I-27 is legal by the end of Monday—when the King County Council will also vote on an alternative to I-27 (one that allows voters to approve the sites). If Alicea-Galvan determines I-27 to be legal, both would appear on the February ballot as a two-part question. 

2. Seattle council members Kirsten Harris-Talley—who was appointed on Friday—and Mike O'Brien proposed an employee hours tax (also known as a head tax) on businesses with gross revenues over $5 million a year. The tax shakes out to about $100 a year for a full-time employee and would create $24 million for the city to use for shelters, housing, and homelessness. The Chamber CEO criticized the city for investing in what she says are strategies that don't work through "a new tax on jobs."

3. Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson started the week by suing President Donald Trump over the Affordable Care Act revision that allows employers to deny women coverage for birth control. Ferguson announced Thursday that he's also challenging Trump's third attempt at a travel ban. And finally on Friday, Ferguson joined 20 states to sue the president over his decision to end cost-sharing subsidies; the ACA provision lowered out-of-pocket health care costs and would raise premiums for more than 100,000 Washington residents, according to the state.

4. U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is speaking in Bellevue Friday evening. DeVos’s policies on charter schools and voucher systems are especially contentious with Washington education groups. The event is expected to draw crowds of protestors—and counter-protestors­—to the Hyatt Regency. Ferguson and King County Executive Dow Constantine are just two of the names slated to speak at the protest.

5. Trump continues to roll back Affordable Care Act provisions through executive orders this week. His latest step includes creating options for small businesses to band together and buy insurance as groups, an option for short-term policies that don’t cover pre-existing conditions, and reimbursement for employees to purchase plans on their own. U.S. Senator Patty Murray said in a press release that this order is “the latest and worst in his yearlong effort to create Trumpcare by sabotage.” Washington State Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler in a statement said the move "almost guarantees the eventual collapse of our health insurance markets across the country."

6. Mayor Tim Burgess signed the Uptown upzoning bill into law Wednesday. The bill allows taller buildings in the Lower Queen Anne neighborhood while mandating a percentage of new developments as affordable housing or payments per square footage. Former Mayor Ed Murray paid a surprise visit during Burgess’s press conference to see the rezoning he championed take effect.

7. Seattle city council members kicked off their 2018 budget discussions on Friday with presentations from departments. The Stranger reported city council member Rob Johnson plans to propose a budget amendment to hire a staff member focused on creating a plan for a municipal broadband network. Former Mayor Ed Murray commissioned a study on the subject last year and found it would cost less than expected. A municipal broadband network would create a public option to a field dominated by Comcast and Century Link.

8. Council member Lorena González is proposing a $2 million legal defense fund to support immigrants fighting deportations, double the money the city dedicated this year. González made the announcement Thursday night during an Asian and Pacific Islander candidate forum before asking her opponent Pat Murakami what she would do for immigrant communities. Murakami replied her first step would be listening.

9. The tent city of Nickelsville in Ballard may have a new home in November. The Seattle Weekly reported city council members, facing pressure from activists, have found a new site for Nickelsville  but have not announced details yet. The encampment was one of three sites sanctioned by Seattle on the condition that they move within two years. The two-year term comes up November 18.

10. Kiro7 reported King County executive Dow Constantine has ordered an inquest into the fatal police shooting of Tommy Le, who was holding a pen that SPD first reported to be a knife. Inquests are “fact-finding hearings” to determine the circumstances around police shootings. 

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